Birthday Gifts - Bah Humbug

Commit to Buying Expensive Gifts, or Decline the Invitations?

Birthday Gifts - Bah Humbug

I’m fraught with indecision over what to buy for the birthday child when my daughters are invited to a birthday party.

Case in point. This week Justin Bieber t-shirts are just $5 at Wal-Mart. Since all of my eldest daughter’s friends are 'Bieberheads', I considered picking up a few of them for the next few parties. After all, I've always kept a gift closet with a few emergency gift items stashed away.

But it suddenly occurred to me - what if the parent wants to return them and discovers I spent just $5 on their child’s gift? I mean, it’s one thing to be cheap with your own kid, but an informal poll on Facebook showed that my circle of friends feel $15 - $20 on a gift is appropriate. So am I being a big cheapie by finding the best deals possible when shopping for the birthday boy or girl?

My kids get invited to a lot of birthday parties, sometimes three or four in one weekend. At the low side of $15 a gift, that might be $45 - $60 a weekend in gifts. In June we’ve been invited to six birthday parties already, and it’s still only May. At $20 a pop, I’m looking at a $120 hit for birthday presents.

That’s more than our monthly budget for clothing for our entire family. $120 would pay our cable bill, cover one child’s RESP contribution, pay for two recreational dance or sport classes, or pay for a week long day camp.

I'm leaning towards thinking a gift is just fine if I got a bargain on an awesome item, but not so great if I spend $3 on dollar store junk. The alternative is to start declining invitations because of the financial burden of gift giving.

What do you think?

Image Credit: Master isolated images /


Birthday Budgets

Staying Within Budget When Celebrating a Child's Birthday

Birthday Budgets

I really struggle with birthday parties for my kids. The expense, who to invite, whether to allow presents or not – I find it stressful. So when my eldest’s sixth birthday approached, I gave her the choice of having three friends to accompany her to a movie, with birthday cake at our house after, or a backyard party, again with just three friends of her choosing. She knew that if she chose the backyard party there would be more kids - the rest of the guests would be our friend’s children as we’d turn it into an adult BBQ as well, and many of our friends have three kids.

A movie birthday would have cost us $25 in admission, $35 in snacks, and $25 for food at home – around $85 total. Instead, she chose the backyard party. I ended up spending $200 total on Justin Bieber themed décor, burgers, hot dogs and a fruit tray, bevies (including beer for the grown-ups), and a piñata and candy (we handed out empty loot bags for the candy from the piñata). We had 12 adults enjoying themselves chatting on the patio in the sun while 19 kids ran amok in the yard for three hours.

When we tallying up the costs later, we were pleased with ourselves for managing to host that many people for $200. After all, our nearest indoor play centre charges $319 for two hours and just 8 kids! The local gymnastics studio packages start at $250 for 10 kids.

The piñata was one of the biggest expenses. It cost $20, plus another $30 in candy and junky toys to fill it. Next year, I plan to shop at Michaels Craft Store for the piñata treats. At my local Michaels they sell $2 grab bags filled with random out-of-season crafts and small toys. If I buy 3 or 4 of those throughout the year, and check the dollar store after Valentine’s Day for half-price erasers and pencils, I should be able to fill a piñata for under $10. I also plan to make our own piñata next year – a further savings, and a fun craft project for the kids.


The Cost of Convenience: Homemade School Lunches Make Cents

Homemade Will Save You Money

The Cost of Convenience: Homemade School Lunches Make Cents

As a busy mom, I’m frequently tempted to take advantage of the pre-packaged and single-serving lunch and snack options at the grocery store. As a frugal mama, I thought I might be able to shave a few dollars off our grocery bill by switching to litter-less lunches, even though I’d have to carve out a few extra minutes a day to prepare the food.

15 Dietitian-Approved Lunch Box Staples

The website states that a pre-packaged lunch costs about $4.02 a day or $723.60 per school year compared to $2.65 a day ($477.00 per school year) for a waste-free lunch-a difference of $246.60 per person per year. After wandering through The Real Canadian Superstore armed with a calculator, I discovered that the made-from-scratch version is nearly always less expensive. And always healthier as well!

 Pre-packagedMade from ScratchAnnual Savings (based on five servings a week)
Raisins$1.29 per 100g$0.65 per 100g$166.40
Cheese & crackers$1.77 per 100g$1.03 per 100g (made with real cheese)  $192.40
Yogurt cups$0.80 per 100g$0.26 per 100g$210.60
Fruit trays$0.83 per 100g$0.10 per 100g – 0.54 per 100g$150.80 – $379.60
Juice boxes
 $1.99 per L
$0.97 per L$53.04
Stackable lunches $2.79 each$1.01 each$92.56 (based on one per week)

It’s easy to believe the savings aren’t significant enough to warrant changing purchasing habits when the savings resulting from choosing convenience over homemade are measured in pennies. Those pennies add up quickly though – just the few products compared here result in approximately a $1,000 grocery savings annually on school lunches alone.

30 Tips On How To Save $1000 A Year

Use those dollars to treat yourself to more indulgent ingredients for meals you have time to savour, or set up a monthly contribution to your child’s RESP. That $1,000 will turn into $1,200 with the government’s 20% matching Canada Education Savings Grant. The numbers above were enough to motivate me to set my alarm clock a few minutes earlier to prep for the day and avoid last minute panicked trips to the grocery store for ready-made items.